The Chamber turns ten since being founded in 2012. What have been the most recent developments and priorities within the Chamber?
The Chamber of Mines inaugurated a new Board in June 2021 and we have been working on a new strategy structured around three axes: The remobilization of the Chamber to attract more members and encourage more proactive and informed participation; The positioning of the Chamber as a key actor in the country’s socio-economic development; And the strengthening of the collaboration with the government around security, local content, mining investment, and ESG. The mining industry in Burkina withstood well the pressures of the pandemic and has recorded growth, with 62 mt gold 2020 production.
Burkina Faso has seen more violent incidents in the last few years. Could you bring us up to date with the security situation on the ground and how is the government tackling this issue?
We recall with deep regret different acts of violence, including the 2019 death of Canadian a geologist, and incidents on some mining convoys. Unquestionably, the last few years have been challenging on the security front. This has taken a huge toll on mining operations, as well as curtailing the exploration ground in high-risk security areas; this is a worrying aspect because the deposits discovered today guarantee the future of mining production. The government is fully aware of the dire consequences stemming from this predicament and we are working together on a comprehensive plan to contain the violence. Private companies cannot protect themselves and they need the government to step in firmly.
Burkina Faso has a long history of informal artisanal mining, what efforts are the Government making to formalize these activities and how is the Chamber supporting them?
In Burkina Faso, there is a long history of artisanal small-scale mining (ASM) and today some studies estimate there are about one million informal miners in the country. The government is looking at ways to reform these activities and ANEEMAS, the National Agency for the Supervision of Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining Operations, is currently piloting 26 different projects to formalize the sector.
The Chamber of Mines strongly supports all the government efforts relative to the formalization of the artisanal mining.
How can the contribution of mining to local development be magnified?
There are two main aspects to increasing the beneficiation from mining. The first one is through the Local Community Fund established in 2017 and collecting 1% contribution from the annual turnover of each mining company to develop local infrastructure in 50 communities. This fund gives leverage to each community to invest in schooling, education, health, and inclusion of women and youth in the local economy. However, to be effective, we need to improve the governance around handling these funds. Municipalities with 60,000 inhabitants and less than US$100,000 annual budget are now entitled to yearly budgets of up to US$3 million, but the money goes through the national treasury and the disbursement is subject to delays. There is also a lack of guidance when it comes to allocating this money to create a real impact on living standards. The Chamber has organized workshops to address issues of transparency, efficiency and accountability surrounding the use of the funds. Together with the Ministries of Finance and Mining, we are creating a roadmap to enhance governance.
The second aspect is local content. The government has recently adopted a new decree on local content just late in September 2021 stipulating that mining companies should prioritize local suppliers when rolling out their procurement strategy suppliers. This should not be intended to create a burden for mining companies, but rather, should augment the mining sector’s contribution to the local economy.
What is your message to potential investors that are considering Burkina Faso?
Burkina Faso is located at the heart of West Africa, holding 22% of the Birimian greenstone belt. This is a country with warm and resilient people that have seen many challenges with the security situation and the pandemic. But the mining industry prevails, and mining remains a bedrock for the fragile economy. The challenges are not insurmountable, and with good organization, we can overcome them. Companies like Endeavour Mining, IAMGOLD, Orezone, Trevali or Roxgold (Fortuna Silver Mines) and many others, continue to invest in the country, adding their vote of confidence in the potential of Burkina Faso.